The Pioneers are undefeated through their first four league games and currently sit atop the West Yosemite League
VISALIA – Mt. Whitney seems to be catching their stride after winning eight of their last nine games following a 6-6 start to the season. They are currently on a six-game winning streak after defeating El Diamante 57-32 and Lemoore 45-41 last week.
Although the Pioneers defeated the Miners by 15 points, the game was close. The first quarter was an ugly struggle for both teams, and the Pioneers were only up 9-3. They relied on their defense throughout the night allowing no more than 12 points in any quarter.
Through the second quarter both teams were going back and forth with scores. El Diamante’s press defense forced a steal and gave them a one-point lead. That’s when Mt. Whitney sophomore big-man Jordan Northcutt began to take over. He got the lead back for his team with a nice post move and soft finish. They continued to draw from the Northcutt well when they went back to him on the next possession where he got fouled and made one of two free throws. After the Pioneers got a fast break layup, they went to Northcutt again down low and he nailed the shot. He went hard in the paint all night and it was clear they wanted him to touch the ball at least once per possession.
Mt. Whitney ended the half on a 15-2 run. Junior guard Rudy Huerta got in on the action as he hit a three pointer to push the lead to double digits. He then made a layup to beat the buzzer to give his team a 26-12 lead heading into halftime.
The two teams then tied at 12 points each in the third period. The Miners struggled to score as they had a hard time penetrating the Pioneer’s zone defense. Meanwhile, Mt. Whitney played aggressive offensively. They made their way to the free throw line but struggled to convert as they left a lot of points on the court.
El Diamante’s defense began to tighten up forcing Mt. Whitney head coach Jon Zaino to call a timeout as his team struggled to beat the full court press. He talked it over with his squad but it didn’t help as they couldn’t get a shot off and received a shot clock violation. The Miners were cutting into the lead and got it down to 11 points, but Huerta hit another buzzer beater, this time from beyond the arc, to put the Pioneers up 14 heading into the final period.
A minute into the fourth quarter, Miners head coach Jeff Lynch received a technical foul for storming onto the court while arguing a call. Mt. Whitney made one of the two technical free throws and received the ball back. They missed the ensuing shot, got the offensive rebound, and then were fouled so they went back to the free throw line. Junior guard Camron Scattareggia sank both free throws and essentially put the game out of reach.
Although the Miners are 1-3, they still have a shot at the top of the league, albeit a long one. They’re tied with Golden West and Redwood for fourth place with six games remaining. The Pioneers are in first, but anything can happen in these final few games. They’re one game ahead of Hanford, two games ahead of Lemoore, and have to play both teams again.